Been a Long Time…

I love Led Zeppelin and most people my age do.   Today I realized, that it’s been a long time – a long, long, lonely, lonely time.  Those of you with a WIP trapped inside of you that cannot come to perfect terms with its identity know exactly what I’m talking about.  I have heard a lot of great authors say that at some point they have to let a WIP go if it does not bear fruit.  I try to do that, but when you feel that the project was never as great as it could be, it’s hard to embrace that thought process.  I believe that every story is meant to be told though, no matter how long it takes for you to tell it. 

I thought I had something polished.   I don’t.   Returning to my blog tells me at least one thing… I no longer have writer’s block.  Let the editing begin.

Query Rejection Party

Thanks to Laura Stanfill for bringing me out of hiding.  I often forget how tough it is to practice my craft and pursue publishing hopes while trying to raise four kids.  Having some response rejection to my recent equeries has really helped to put some things in perspective for me.  I do work as a paralegal from home, and the end of the month is an extremely stressful time in industry which has sadly taken much of my efforts lately.  Add that to the end of the grading period for my school aged kids, bills, and life?  Well…it leaves little room for reflection and figuring out how to fine tune any literary skills I think I have.   Life is a balancing act?  Half right.  Most of the time in my four walls, it’s a balance of chaos with no harmony to be found.  I tend to resent the word ‘balance’ since I have no concept of what it actually means.   The rest of the time I’m just trying to make sure my kids are clean, responsible, productive, and well-informed members of my community that think for themselves without having knee jerk responses to fear and propaganda.  So sure, there’s balance there…I guess.

I have had three responses to my three paragraph e-query (I sent 10, and only queries, no synopsis), and they have all been rejections.  Now that I’ve had some time to reflect, and put some effort into work (the one that actually pays money) and disengage from my characters for a bit, I realized that this was exactly what I needed to understand that my pitch was wrong.  I had been writing nonstop, then editing nonstop… then putting together the query, then, then…  I needed to step away.  It doesn’t really matter how well the book is written if the interest isn’t sparked enough to get a request for more.  So, I embraced my ‘real’ job and took any chance free time to reflect on my plot, my characters, how I was going to enrich both, and pitch my book to the next round of agents.  That being said, I don’t think I’ll go the e-query route next time. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m actually glad that I got responses (and they were even addressed to me) so this tells me that someone at least opened the email.  I don’t know how much they read, but they at least took the time to respond.  So, keeping in tune with the Lemonade from Lemons mantra in my house, I took it as a good sign – or rather, I forced myself to find the good, and rejoiced.   Next time around (after having some feedback from people who have read my first 3 chapters, the synopsis and the query) I need to approach agents that want more than the query, because to those readers – the query wasn’t enough.  For this project, I’ll have to agree… environment and waste notwithstanding.  If the query was at least read and responded to electronically (and anonimously… for both agent and author), then perhaps packaged correctly and marketed to the right agent was sorely, and obviously overlooked.  Speaking of agents, I found that I boxed myself into a corner with the genre I was soliciting (despite any specific admiration for the agents I queried and my novel’s inclusion criteria).  Apparently, I left off a rather huge aspect of my entire story that I simply hadn’t noticed was there (did I just say that?  how long have I been writing this thing?) until my editor gently guided me to a higher concept.  The result?   It’s time to read my novel again, and perhaps bring out the red pen.  I may not use it, but I do need to read it again.  When I feel as good as I did 4 weeks ago – I’ll work on packaging 10 snail mail queries and I’ll start this lovely process of angst all over again.  I’m quite sure my attachment to the queries the next time around will be significantly different.

Pins and Needles

I am a hot mess right now.  I’ve had my face buried in my novel nonstop for three weeks.  I took some time off after I finished my rewrite, (story needed to rest) and I’ve been polishing my query skills and have actually submitted to several agencies.  But, I digress…

The Query.  Ew.  Just ew.  What a painstaking process… I thought childbirth was difficult.  I can say that poking my nose around the blogosphere looking for tips ended in some really enlightening reads.  I found some excellent websites that any author trying to get published who is cussing, screaming, throwing a laptop out the window struggling like I was should definitely check out… First:  AgentQuery.    A million thank you(s) to (no doubt)  tireless efforts that went in to constructing this website.  I’ve lost count how many times I’ve been on this website in the last several days.   When you are ready to look for an agent, this is definitely the place to find one, or at a minimum is a really good starting point.  If you’re looking for dos and don’ts, they’ve got a few of those too.

Second:  Query Shark.  Highly entertaining and loaded with a lot of dialogue about common mistakes, and if you take the time to read through the vast archives, I guarantee you’ll find a shell of your own miserable query in there somewhere.  I know I did.  Thanks to this blog, I identified what was fat and what was not.  And the snark. I love it and will frequent that place for this alone.  (thanks again for helping me abandon my rhetoric… I got that from years of debating)

I tried desperately to adhere to the goal of 250 words for a query, but I just couldn’t do it… I ended up at 340, and it’s the best I can possibly do.   Is my query perfect?  Can’t say, I’m sure some agents will find plenty wrong with it.  But I’ve read it more than 500 times and have rearranged that furniture to the best possible flow and I’m happy with it every time I read it.  And that’s also the best I can do.  Will an agent be intrigued enough to request a partial?  I don’t know…we’ll find out soon since I finally bit the bullet and actually sent it out…I hope I don’t have a heart attack if I get positive feedback.

My first batch were all e-queries, which of course doesn’t cost a thing, but also means I may not get a response.  If I want a nice rejection letter I’ll have to send it to an agent that prefers snail mail and include a SASE.  No response to e-query = rejection.  Let the waiting game begin.  I can always obsessive-compulsively edit my novel and synopsis until I hear something…

Exhausted

86,249 words… I had no idea I could write this much, this fast.   I changed my ending, so I’ve had to do a bit more re-writing than I thought I would, and it’s been pretty taxing.   I still have to do at least two read-throughs now that I am satisfied with the story well enough to start reading it all over again and formally begin my edits.  This is where I got stumped last time… but the difference then and now, is that my story was drowning in the voice of my main character and I didn’t want to start it all over again.  That’s because I knew something was fundamentally wrong.   Not anymore.

My gracious teenage daughter has already told me that she will lend me some of her friends when I am ready to have a group of test readers, and teenage girls are my audience, so I consider myself lucky to be able to experiment on them…(watch out girls, and you know who you are)  I am very happy with my story, though I no doubt have some plot holes to fill… that’s the easy part.  The hard part is just getting it out of you.  You can’t over think, you have to just trust yourself and write.  The hardest part about writing, is getting started.  The hard part is over.

Let the editing begin.

Exhilaration

I can’t believe it.  I have read and edited more than 54,000 words in just a few days.  Once I got past the daunting task of introducing my characters and developing them just enough so that readers can relate, the plot just kind of spilled out of me.  I understand why writers lock themselves away in seclusion to finish their work… if I weren’t filling sippy cups, fetching snacks, and doing laundry, and, and… I just might be done by now.   Each time I look at the clock, another 45 minutes has gone by and it only feels like a few.  Whatever has infected me with creativity, please don’t go away.

I have developed a nifty trick for injecting first person humor that before was misplaced, or was drowning the plot.  Funny really…. it seems so blatantly obvious to me now.  I feel like I should be thanking someone for my newfound passion, but I don’t know who deserves the honor?  All I know is I’m more than halfway done and my story and characters are becoming a real part of me.  When I’m not telling the story, I miss it.  When I’m not thinking about how to develop the characters further or fill a plot hole, I feel guilty.  I haven’t felt like this in a very, very long time.  I’m nearing the climax now and have lots of moving parts to tie together…wish me luck.

Realizations

I’m not sure what possessed me to dig out my novel that has been stored in my hard drive for going on a year now…. but I did.  Maybe I was just overwhelmed at the task that lied ahead.  I had poured as much creativity that I could into 80,000 words and written, what I believe, to be a very unique and empowering story.  I struggled with the ending, as I understand many do… but after submerging into George RR Martin’s, Game of Thrones series – I emerged from it pretty enlightened.  One of the things I liked about the way he writes, was that he didn’t number the chapters, he simply titled it after whichever character the chapter was mostly about.  I found it to be a superb tactic for character development… the plot will always take care of itself if your characters are fully developed.  Since I’ve had many exercises in this very department, I wanted to see how his influence affected my novel through these new-found editing eyes.

Since I abandoned my original voice, and have begun a massive edit to change that voice and narrative… I’m happy with the progress I’m making.  I’ve only just begun, and I will definitely need a full read, instead of broken by chapters to see how my new glasses are shaping my stagnant novel before it’s ready to be shared.   But I am happy to be optimistic about it… Time will tell.

It made me smile….

I described my epiphany that spurred the rewrite of my novel almost 6 months ago.  Once I came to the realization that my book needed to be written from another perspective, and that my story was trapped inside the mind of my main character, I was lazy to get started with it again.  My mind was excited, because I felt like I had been sitting in a dark basement and someone finally turned on a light.  It was like I could finally see the plot holes in my story filling up with literary genius once I was allowed to see what was happening from another point of view.  But with this “excitement”, there was also dread… because I knew how hard I had labored to get where I was, and I was not ready to roll up my sleeves and start the process all over again.  But now, I’m thinking that is just part of the editing process.

The laptop that I was using to write had some issues after being dropped, and then the monitor went out leaving me with my trusty journal and a bic pen.  I busted out my nifty passport  and stored everything of relevance onto it for future use, whenever that might be.  I’ve been carrying it around in my purse waiting for the day I’d become interested again.  Today was the day.  I plugged it in to the USB drive on my work computer, and there it was.  Named and renamed, separated by chapters… and even the graphics my daughter had drawn of my main characters.  I read the first page and I actually smiled.  I’m seeing my story a little differently, and immediately started editing again, and wanting to edit… and just actually reading the manuscript for what it is.  Maybe the winds of change are blowing in more ways than one?  Time to get the laptop fixed… or maybe just get a new one?  A netbook, something?